Crohn’s disease is an IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) that causes the digestive tract lining to become inflamed. This inflammation frequently spreads into the deeper layers of bowel tissue. It can be debilitating and painful, sometimes leading to complications which are life-threatening.
Crohn's Disease Symptoms
The symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease can vary greatly from severe to mild. Sometimes they will start suddenly while other times it is a gradual progression. It is also possible to have periods of remission without any symptoms. Symptoms can include:
1. Blood in Stool
There may be occult blood (bleeding you can’t see). You may also see darker blood that mixes with the stool or bright red blood within the toilet.
2. Fever and Fatigue
Low-grade fever due to the infection or inflammation is also possible, as it is a feeling of low energy or tiredness.
One of the common symptoms is diarrhea and it can be worsened by intensified intestinal cramping.
4. Loss of Appetite and Weight
The inflammatory reaction with the bowel walls may combine with the cramping and abdominal pain, leading to a loss of appetite. The lower appetite contributes to weight loss because it reduces ability to absorb and digest food.
5. Pain and Cramping in Abdomen
Ulceration and inflammation may affect how contents normally move through the digestive tract, and this in turn leads to cramping and pain. It can range from a slight discomfort all the way to severe pain and may also be accompanied by vomiting and nausea.
You may have ulcers in the mouth in the form of mouth sores that are similar in nature to canker sores.
7. Other Severe Symptoms
It is also possible to have drainage or pain near the anus from fistula inflammation. Other possible symptoms include inflammation of the bile ducts, liver, joints, eyes or skin and delayed sexual development and/or growth in children.
When to See a Doctor
You should see your doctor anytime if you find the bowel habit changes are persistent. Also visit your doctor if you have any of the symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, unexplained fever that lasts over two days, ongoing diarrhea which doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments, blood in the stool or abdominal pain.
Crohn's Disease Diagnosis
Your doctor will diagnose Crohn’s disease via a medical history, lab tests, imaging to examine the intestines and a physical exam. It can be undiagnosed for several years, especially if the symptoms appear gradually.
Some of the possible diagnostic tests include:
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Abdominal X-ray
- UGI (upper gastrointestinal) series
- Barium enema
- CT (computed tomography) scan
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Standard urine test
- Standard blood test
Other tests that your doctor may recommend to evaluate or confirm Crohn’s disease include:
- Stool analysis
- VCE (video capsule endoscopy)
- Small bowel enteroscopy
- Blood tests to detect antibodies
Crohn's Disease Risk Factors
The exact causes of Crohn’s disease are unknown. Some scientists think it may be an infection caused by particular bacteria like mycobacterium strains, but no evidence supports this. Because of this, anyone with the following risk factors should visit their doctor early.
Although it can occur at any age, it is more likely for young people to develop Crohn’s disease and most people diagnosed are before age 30.
This is the controllable risk factor that is the most important. It can also lead to a disease that is more severe in nature as well as an increased risk of requiring surgery.
Those with a parent, child, sibling, or other close relative with the disease are at a higher risk. One in five of those with Crohn’s disease have a family member who also suffers from it.
4. Races and Ethnicity
This disease affects all ethnic groups, but those with a greater risk include whites as well as those of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent.
Certain medications, particularly nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory ones like ibuprofen, diclofenac sodium and naproxen sodium can worsen the symptoms by inflaming the bowel.
Those living in industrialized countries or urban areas are at a higher risk of the disease. It may be due to environmental factors such as a diet containing refined foods and large quantities of fat. Those in northern climates also have a higher risk.
Crohn's Disease Treatments
- Aminosalicylates can help manage symptoms.
- Antibiotics can treat abscesses and fistulas as well as managing symptoms.
- Corticosteroids can control swelling, but can’t be used in the long-term.
- Certain medications work by suppressing the immune system.
- Biologics can be used to treat general symptoms (or fistulas) if other options aren’t effective.
- Intravenous corticosteroids and cyclosporine are sometimes needed in severe cases.
2. Nutrition Therapy
Sometimes getting a special diet via injection or a feeding tube can let the bowel rest to reduce inflammation while improving your nutrition overall. This can be used in the short-term in combination with medications. Some doctors also recommend a diet lower in fiber or residue to reduce the chance of intestinal blockage.
Certain beverages and foods may aggravate symptoms, particularly for a sudden one. As such, to limit the amount of dairy products, opt for low-fat foods, as it may be hard for the body to digest fat), and avoiding foods such as fiber, alcohol, spicy foods, or caffeine will be helpful. Other diet changes that can help include:
- Eating smaller meals
- Drinking lots of fluids
- Taking multivitamins
- Talking to a dietician
If no other treatment works, doctors may suggest surgery, which can remove the damaged ares of the digestive tract. Although it doesn’t cure the disease, up to 50% of patients need surgery at least once. It can also close drain abscesses and fistulas, but surgery usually only offers a temporary solution.
Nutritionists have recommended some food to control the symptoms of this disease, you can get it from this video: